January 31, 2010

her party in the park

The idea came to us in a flash... and both of us knew that this was the best idea for her birthday. The best.
We had so much fun last year... just the two us. And we were anxious to share the experience, and search for bowls that she had made in class this year, or in clay camp this past summer. It called for a party in the park... friends, pottery, soup and giving back. All the important ingredients for her 16th.
The day also called for afternoon showers... and as I watched the sky, I prayed that God would hold the rain back... just a few hours. The gray, heavy clouds were rolling in... but the blue patches kept peeking through, as if making their presence known. Those bits of blue were just enough to give me hope.
I had actually planned ahead... and had picnic blankets ready and balloons to highlight our little spot. My sister took over the setting up while I went off to purchase the tickets and take a few pictures... so once the guests (and the birthday girl!) arrived, they wouldn't have to wait in line, and I would already have plenty of pictures of the tables full of bowls and the festivities.
I was planning on beautiful pictures... but my plans came to an abrupt halt when I noticed the bowl supply was diminishing by the minute. And then my halt became a mad dash as I raced to collect my dozen bowls... so at least each friend would have a bowl. As I made my way through the crowd my nerves increased and my heart raced. And all along I was thinking how this wasn't supposed to happen this way. Not at all. But I carried on...

The plan was for Laura and her friends to browse the tables and choose their own bowls. I had imagined that it might take an hour for them to find the very bowl they desired, and for weeks I have pictured it in my head as the best part of the party. Instead of hundreds to choose from... there were twelve. I called Laura,who was on her way, to let her know... so that she would be prepared for situation and not disappointed on arrival. Her reply? Okay. She must not take after me... because even with her acceptance I was tied in knots. And my insides just kept twisting those knots tighter and tighter around my still-racing heart. Looking for a way to accomplish something while we waited, Tina went off to collect the water and bread that was part of the event. She came back empty-handed. There was no more water, no more bread... no more soup. All 1700 bowls and countless gallons of soup had been consumed in just about an hour. The party hadn't even begun... and my brain was almost past the point of being able to even think about a plan b. Thank goodness for a sister and a great friend. They reassured me that all would be okay. I did believe them... but my mind was in break-down mode... and all I could do was beg myself not to cry.

Laura showed up with a smile on her face... and she and her friends sat in the sunshine and chose their bowls from my slim but creative collection. We had dessert first... and then the kids all ran off to play on the playground (yes, 16 year olds!) smiling and just happy to be celebrating. And I knew it was going to be okay. There was laughter and joy and not a care in the world about the lack of soup.
And then... there was plan b. And c. My sister called into the kitchen where she works and headed off to claim some soup. And Becky scrolled through her phone and found the number for the pizza place where we had celebrated ages ago...


It wasn't what we planned... but my girl kept on smiling.

It took me quite a while to be able to sit and start to relax... after being so tied up inside. But sitting there... sipping the warm soup now in my bowl, and replaying the conversations I had with God during the turmoil... I began to breathe again. Eventually I looked up... and actually saw that those long ago patches of blue had stitched themselves together and created a full brilliant blue sky. We had all made the best of it... and although there was much disappointment, there was far more fun. And that was what her day was meant to be.

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January 29, 2010

summer memories

The carnival was in town, and enjoying the freedom and anticipation of being almost-juniors in high school, we were up for the fun. One of us loved all the rides, but the other of half of this best friendship laid down the law... the only round-and-round ride she would go on was the carousel. And I think she only agreed to the carousel because she knew it was my favorite. I'm sure there is a matching photo... and I wonder if she has it...

Our skin was scorched by the summer sun... as usual, we had spend the day at the beach. Catching too many sun rays and trying to cool off in the ocean. It was a process... wading in only ankle deep, and waiting until the numbness to set in before we dared take another step deeper. I'm not sure we ever made it too far past our knees. Many hours into our day, we would begin lathering on the sunscreen, sure that we had not acquired even an ounce of tan, but wanting to be on the safe side. As usual, we were wrong. Well, not entirely wrong. There was no tan, only red. Red, that was painful to the touch. One day we would learn...

Somehow... I talked her into riding the Skydiver. How I convinced her, I'll never really know, but she decided it wouldn't be too bad. Not too round-and-round, more like the Ferris wheel. And upside down? I'm sure we could hold the wheel...
We still laugh about it today. Sunburned skin and seeing the world spinning by with bright carnival bulbs blurred as the car tumbled around and around. There was laughter and screaming... and probably a I'll never forgive you! But she did. Because that is what best friends do.

Come on and join Jo at Mylestones for Flashback Friday!

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January 28, 2010

six months til africa

Jambo!
(That means Hello in Swahili!)
In six short months we will be on our way... to the other side of the world. Tanzania. Wow. I've never been to the other side of the world... or even the other side of this country. But we are going... and the excitement is building day by day!
Way back in September it seemed like this trip was forever away, but the months have fallen away and we are down to six months, which will likely fly by. Especially when there are lists of things to do before you go. Our passports are in process (I cannot believe I am going to have a passport!)... but there are shots to schedule, Visas to apply for, nevermind packing... and adjusting to the idea of no hairdryer! And although our travel bags have not yet arrived, my mom was kind enough to share one of hers... and I plunked some of our Christmas gifts in. Like flashlights, TSA locks and money belts. For a not-so-organized girl like me, it is good to have a place to stash stuff as we think of it. I added animal check-lists yesterday!
But hitting the six month mark brings up some serious things to think about, too... like practicing keeping our hands away from our face and out of our mouths...

and taking showers with our eyes and mouths totally closed. My kids think goggles will work, and after trying to shower with my eyes closed I am leaning towards trying it!

I have pulled out the travel guide... and have been reading some interesting fashion tips...
like, don't bring dark blue or black clothes because that might attract tsetse flies (okay, no blue jeans!) and the roads are bumpy, so women should wear brassieres (ummm, was there even a question about that?) and... at the tented camps there is electricity while the generators are running, but while the current is usually adequate to run an electric razor, it will not support a hairdryer. Maybe a curling iron? I'm okay. I'll make it. But I might be wearing a hat in every picture!

We are thinking about batteries and camera cards and seeing animals in the wild. We are also thinking about what we can bring to share, like legos and origami paper... but that is a story for a different day.

Six months. The trip of a lifetime. Pinch me...

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Want to hear the story from the beginning?
Africa, part 1
Africa, part 2
Africa, part 3
Africa, part 4
Africa, part 5

January 27, 2010

thankful...


It has been a week of stories... the kind that just make you thankful for the gifts in your life.
Like a good man.
And kids who are healthy, and don't have to grow up too quickly.
And knowing you have friends who would go to the ends of the earth for you. All the things that are good, and important. Some days we take these things for granted. But not this week... not me.

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January 26, 2010

love wrapped in pretty paper

I do not take my Christmas shopping lightly. I try... to choose the perfect gift for each person on my list. Some years it is a silly gift, and other years it is a bring-you-to-tears gift... but no matter what, I really try to choose with love. But, when it comes to my Mom, I never know which kind of gift I have chosen... until she opens it! After her first trip to Africa, I was almost at a loss at what to get her... not sure that she really needed or wanted one more thing. I finally settled on a Partylite candle holder, with an African theme... and I hoped she would smile and like it. Maybe a lot. Never once did I dream she would break down in a pile of tears over it... or push Baby Jesus right out of the stable and replace Him with the candle holder (that being the only safe spot to have a lit candle amidst flying wrapping paper!) I guess loving Africa will do that to someone! But this year... it was she who made me cry. Over a pan.

I love my pots & pans. Belgique! It is so much fun to say! And even after almost 18 years, they look almost new. Several years ago my Mom came across a great sale... and picked up several pots and pans for herself. Including two sizes that I did not have! After admiring them greatly, I hinted at wanting them... since she had more than one of each! Eventually, she did give me the smaller pot, and it made me smile. But what I really wanted was the 3.5 quart pan. And she had two. Oh you can do so much more with a 3.5 quart than a 2! On many occasions I have tried to sneak one out of her house (most recently Thanksgiving!)... but I am not such a great sneaker... the laughter gives me away every time!

It was the last gift I opened at her house on Christmas Eve... and it may just be a piece of kitchen cookware... but it was given with love. I honestly am still surprised, and overcome that she parted with it... because she probably used it more than I will. But oh, I love it. And I love that she loves me... so much that she would give me something of hers that she loves.

A mother's love for her daughter is the gift I
unwrap today... love that came in pretty paper just to make me smile.



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January 24, 2010

a dusty road

Do you ever picture yourself walking with Jesus?
My vision? Travelling along the daily road... a rocky path with dust trailing my feet. I picture His precious scarred hand just under my elbow, guiding me. There are days... when I give Him everything... and there is not a day I don't speak to Him, but sometimes... I just keep my eyes on the road... and His presence might as well be my imagination, for all the mind I pay Him. But still... He walks with me. In the sun, in the rain... through the storm. Every storm.

Just thinking about it makes me wonder... how life on the dusty road really was... with Jesus and the disciples. Did they laugh together? Were they all friends, or just students? They often grumbled. And I wonder... if Jesus smiled through it, or rolled his eyes in frustration. Did He stoop to retie a sandal or remove a rock from under a toe... or did He wait with that look on his face that matches the arms crossed and the tapping foot that I often seem to display?

How I long for less of me and so much more of Him.

A thousand times I've failed
Still your mercy remains
And should I stumble again
Still I'm caught in your grace

-From the Inside Out, Seventh Day Slumber




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January 22, 2010

another washing day


I love to watch the ocean waves roll in... wave after wave. I love to watch each soft gentle swell rise up to a peak, then crash around in a turbulent swirl of foam and bubbles. Sometimes the wind catches it just right, and the finest mist of salty spray is tossed up into the breeze. And then the bubbling foam turns back into a gentle current that gracefully laps the seashore and lazily washes the sand of any imperfections that we have created... castles built tall and sure; words carved deep into the packed sand; even our trailing footprints. Time after time the mighty ocean sweeps in and smooths out all of the rough edges and leaves the beach just as it was meant to be- natural and untouched. I have been witness to many ferocious storms and ocean waves so dark and destructive- waves that have splintered homes and washed away dreams in a single tide. The power of the ocean always amazes me... good or bad.. and once the storm has passed, a new day lights upon us and the ocean has once again been calmed by God's mighty hand... and the waves are once again gentle. In our lives, days pass swiftly... calm, gentle days, and mighty, ferocious days... and yet, each day is as blessed as the next. Each day God comes in and washes away the imperfections that we have scattered in the sand. He takes the harshness and the horrible out into the raging tide and, in His time, sends it back to us, tumbled by the waves, washed in His love and grace, so that the edges are no longer rough... and we can tuck it away in our pocket, as a remembrance... a lesson. The sandy beach... the dark days... everyday... me...washed by the water- by His water... clean and new.

Yes, you may have read this from me before... but today my mind is drawing a blank, and I long to be washed by His water.

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January 20, 2010

a gift for her

I knew that there would be no shortage of gifts for my birthday girl... from little bits of fun, to boxes of goodies. Friends and family are so generous. We had already given her one gift early... a behind the scenes tour of Seaworld. She got to touch sharks and view the hidden polar bear den. She and Eric had such a good time together... But I still wanted to give her something special... something that she will look at in the years to come, that will bring her 16th birthday to mind with a rush and a smile. I received a locket for my 16th... and I love it. But my sweet girl has about forty necklaces that she hardly ever wears. And so I took a cue from my forever friend and put together an album for her. My scrapbooking stuff was happy to see the light of day, and in the process, I remembered how much I enjoyed piecing together bits and scraps of our life onto pages that will last forever. The album was beautiful... mostly because of her smiling face that lit up page after page.

And when she carefully tore off the paper(saving it to make another paper crane)and opened it? She admired the cover, running her hands over it and saying Oh its so pretty! And then, flipping open the cover, her words were lost and her face said the rest.


And this Mama was filled with joy.

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January 19, 2010

when morning gilds the sky

Saturday mornings mean getting up early and heading out in the dark... delivering Laura to her volunteer job at the barn. It is a quiet time for the two of us, just waking up... sometimes talking, and sometimes not. But this early bird never minds the time we drive in darkness. The day is just dawning as I drop her to play with the horses and the kids and I head on home. With my thoughts and my music... and the sun beginning its climb. This Saturday morning sky left me breathless...


It was one of those moments when I had no choice but to stop the car and walk back up the bridge... and stand in His glory. Perhaps He created this masterpiece just for me. The layers of gold. The pinks and blues smudged and swirled. And the way it filled the landscape... and gave light to my soul.


When my eyes and lens had had their fill, I continued on... noticing how the clouds had shifted and what had been so extraordinary was now just a pretty sky. And I felt that much more love coming from His heart to mine...


It was Tuesday moment... an ordinary occurance that was spectacularly un-ordinary... and by slowing down and taking the time to fully appreciate the moment, I was given a most beautiful memory.


When morning gilds the skies my heart awaking cries,
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Alike at work and prayer, to Jesus I repair:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
-a favorite hymn
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January 18, 2010

some housekeeping...

I love my house... and I love when it is clean and there is nothing to do but lounge on the couch and admire it. But that doesn't happen very often. I am not shy about admitting it... which is why my dear friend Suz gave me this for my birthday...


Can't read it?
Bad HouseKeeping Fairy
Nature abhors a vaccuum and so do I.
I actually don't mind vacuuming... it is just picking up the stuff on the floor to vacuum! But I kind of love the flip side of the keychain best. It says...
Live each day as if it was your last... which is why I have no clean laundry! Who wants to spend the last day of their life doing laundry?

So... the ham. I just cannot believe how many people were supporting Eric on his Honey Baked Ham for a Year quest. Thank you. So many people have told me I voted every day! But apparently he didn't win. Not even an honorable mention! But I just wanted to thank you for voting. It meant the world to me!

And now... for the winner of the Jesus Calling Devotional by Sarah Young. Congratulations to Ruby Red Slippers from Lions, Tigers & Boys Oh My! Have you ever popped on over to her blog? Her three beautiful boys keep her on her sparkly red toes. It is always a pleasure to visit her... for a movie, a recipe or a craft... or just a bit of her heart!
So...if you didn't win? I would highly recommend seeking this book out. The devotions are short reads and with a couple bible verses. Short, easy... and a huge blessing to your heart.

Okay... one more thing, or two! I recently received two bloggy awards from two great people! So, thank you. The first one is from Michelle at Graceful. (Check her blog out! Words of wisdom & beautiful photos!) And she thought of me when she passed out this gratitude award. The second is from Cassie at In Amazing Graceland. (Check out her blog, too! She has dogs and a super husband, as well as a beautiful heart!) This superior scribbling award has more rules than I could practically bear to read, but I am honored that she scooted it my way! I am not typically a rule breaker... but I think I am going to break away from them... just a bit.



The Gratitude award goes to...
Jenn at Randolph Six. She makes me smile! And her kiddos are beautiful!
Kelli at Joy. I smile there, too... and her littlest reminds me of Laura.
Dawn at Good Life. Our lives are eerily similar!
Richella at Imparting Grace. I love her heart and her honesty.
And I'm sending the Superior Scribbling award to...
Elizabeth at Boy Crazy. She is always looking for the clarity... and she helps me see it!
Erin at Together for Good. I love to laugh with her and her goofy sweet kids! And her faith in the down times inspires me.
Michelle at Graceful. She makes me really think. And she wrote a book!
Jo at Mylestones. Her photos of Maine bring me back to New England and her words are often a song to my heart.

And, since it is Martin Luther King Day, I will share this quote from him that made me smile...
Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.

And thank you... for all of the sweet things you wrote about my birthday girl.  She had a fantastic day and was so exhausted by the end of it that she headed to bed just after 7pm. 

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January 16, 2010

sixteen


When I held that sweet bundle of newness in my arms for the very first time I was overcome by her... her tiny features, the realness of the moment and the responsibility. And certainly sixteen was the furthest thing from my mind. As the years passed and milestones were reached, I rejoiced and anticpated the next... but never once did I think I can't wait until she is sixteen.... and yet, here she is. Placing her other foot across the threshhold of young adulthood.
The years between then and now have passed more quickly than I ever dreamed possible, or could have possibly wanted. Those people who tell you to slow down and not wish it all away... that the time will pass so quickly? An understatement. I recall standing in line at the grocery store and having someone say that to me... and oh how I wish I had taken her advice at face value. Time really does fly... and though I have albums full of moments and a heart full of memories, never again will I be able to hold all of her in my arms... and those tiny hands that once grasped onto mine with such determination are now almost a mirror image of my own. The girl who used to scream at the door because she didn't want to go to bed now comes to kiss me goodnight by 8:30... worn from her day and ready for rest. But while I try to focus on what was, what is steps quickly into view. Her stunningly beautiful heart. The confidence that can lead her to a microphone and prompt her voice to sing. Her laughter... that tumbles out unexpectedly and leads me to my own. The way she stoops down, to help someone small... and in the process makes them feel big. Her love. And all at once I see it was a journey to this very moment. It leaves me smiling... and a little breathless. And happy. Very happy.
Happy Birthday Laura!

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January 15, 2010

a piece of my quiet time

My face is shining upon you, beaming out Peace that transcends all understanding. You are surrounded by a sea of problems, but you are face to Face with Me. As long as you focus on Me, you are safe.
-Jesus Calling by Sarah Young

I received a most beautiful book for my birthday... from a very special friend. I have never really had an every day devotional book that calls me from the bedside... but this one does. Faithfully. It is written as if Jesus is speaking... right to me. This reading is for today... and as I read, I could feel the Son on my face. The warm glow that lifts my spirits and brings a smile to my face. And He urges me on... to fix my eyes on the One who never changes... and today's waves... laughing at the future.

I would love to share this book with you... want one? I think I will hold my very first give-away ever. When will I pick a winner? How about... Monday! And how will you enter? Comment, follow, become a fan on facebook. Yep. Up to three entries. Because you guys are the best... and your friendship is another shining light in my life.

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January 14, 2010

bowl me over...

It’s been a bit of a bumpy road around my house the last week or so… trying to catch up from vacation and jumping back into the swing of work and school, not to mention some other stuff. The days pass in a blur, with check lists going unchecked and time running short… emotional upheaval and physical exhaustion. Sometimes… we forget to be nice to each other. We are wrapped up in our own junk and putting on a happy face for the world… and coming home to our safe haven means that we can finally be real, and let the mess in our hearts spill all over. I know it isn’t even close to how is should be… but that is how it is. In real life. Just for right now.
Until… some beautiful man shows up in my office carrying a bowl full of flowers and fruit.

But he is not just some man… he is my man. Who knows my heart, mess and all… and still loves me.

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January 12, 2010

brilliant blue






If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, rejoice, for your soul is alive! 
Eleanora Duse
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January 09, 2010

outrageous hope

Safe inside our four walls, we watch as winter slinks into our Florida world. Skies are gray and the air is damp. A cold rain sprinkles the earth and the temperatures are dropping from 47 to... who knows. Ham soup is bubbling away in the crock pot and steamy hot chocolate warms Laura's hands... while Camden is squealing from the couch. Because we are watching the weather channel... and there is a mix of rain and sleet in Orlando. Hope is alive... for snow.
What a memory it would be for my kids... and such a gift. As Laura's birthday approaches, I always remember her first Florida birthday... her sweet little self staring out the window waiting for the snow that would never fall. And today I am recalling the recent joy that I have seen on my son's face as he tossed ice cubes into the sky and called it snow... and just last week as he ran and jumped through the soapy snow that fell at Seaworld.
It is an outrageous hope we have... that it might snow in southwest Florida. But it might. And with the possibility lingering over us, no one seems to mind the chil in the air. Not if it would lead to an impossible sight. But I do not believe in the impossible...all things are possible with God. Even snow in the Sunshine State.

the last time they saw real snow...
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January 08, 2010

to be a treasure



While we were away last week, Laura and Eric often wandered ahead a bit… and I would watch as she leaned into him, and often took his hand. And all at once I would send up a prayer of thankfulness… for this good man who found me and made me his wife. And for the Daddy he is to our children. My Laura, she is a homebody. Happy and content to share time and be seen with us. Still. And I wonder how much of it has to do with this Daddy she holds dear. This man who acknowledges her… and shows interest in her activities, and takes time for her. She is quite a fortunate young lady… to have three examples of strong gentle men who will pull her into their arms and extend their hearts to hers. I hope and pray that when it is her time, she will find a man who is much like her father and her grandfathers…

Looking back, I don’t know when it started… but I always wanted to be Daddy’s Little Girl. Maybe it was the song some beautiful girl sang on the Lawrence Welk show… or maybe the blue pajamas that declared My Heart Belongs to Daddy… either way, it didn’t make a difference. Because I wasn’t the little one. I was never treated poorly… but it would have been so nice… to feel like I was a treasure in my Daddy’s eyes. Even after the divorce, in anger, I wanted that. What I didn’t know then… is that I was a treasure in another Father’s eyes. And in Bob’s eyes, too. He has never really felt like a stepfather to me… because he always made time to make me feel special. Still.

A little girl needs her Daddy… and big girls, too. Seeking approval, love, or just seeking shelter from the storm that life is. There are days when I don’t feel sparkly or worthy at all, but I hold tight to the knowledge that I am always a treasure in His eyes. And I hope and pray that my own sweet daughter will always know that, too…

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January 06, 2010

his thirteenth best birthday ever

He says it was his best birthday ever... but I think he says that every year.  My heart smiles at the thought... knowing that he truly lives every moment to its fullest.  I try... to make his day special.  It is not always easy to keep the momentum going after Christmas... but for him, I would move heaven and earth.  Camden has loved Seaworld this year... more than I have.  Black and white animals, getting splashed and riding roller coasters... it doesn't get much than that.  Or so he thought...


Cam decided to wait until we were back at the hotel to open his birthday gifts, but I had a special one for breakfast.  You would have thought these penguins were worth millions the way he screeched about them.  And then, as he was lining them up to admire them,  he noticed there were words written on their stomachs.  It didn't take him long to decipher his gift... Come visit us behind the scene at Seaworld.  It was a 60 minute tour that promised touching a penguin... the price was unbelieveably reasonable, since we already has our admission to the park.  And it was so much more than we imagined...





We met a puffin and then... this beautiful king penguin named Coby.  I thought Camden would get to pet it once then we would move on... but Coby was more than happy to hang out and be touched.  His feathers... were soft and almost fluffy.  And it was all I could do to not put my arms around him and give him a hug.  Camden's face shone brightly... and I think he was beyond words.  My camera kept clicking tyring to save the moment, but I know... that emotions like those can hardly be captured.  After about 15 minutes petting Coby, we were invited into the foyer of the penguin enclosure.  Only a two foot high fence stood between us and a whole lotta penguins.  It really was amazing...


Of course, the birthday did not end there.  More rides on the roller coasters and seeing Shamu, chocolate cake and snow.  Well, faux snow.  But Camden didn't care.  He ran and danced and jumped... just loving life... until he caught a bit of that soapy snow on his tongue.  He continued his merriment, but with his mouth closed.  Back at the hotel there were a few small gifts... the perfect way to end his birthday. 

Thirteen.  It chokes me up a bit.  While I am so ready to see him grow and test his wings... I realize that time is passing quicker than I ever thought it could.  Another birthday... come and gone.  And a year of adventure... laying in wait. 
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